I am generally not a reader of American fiction set in the Old West; however, this review of Doc piqued my interest. This is a thoroughly researched engaging novel where even the minor characters, most of whom are based on real people, are well drawn and multifaceted with small vignettes rounding out their characters. The ‘Doc’ of the title is Dr John Henry Holliday of OK Corral fame. Well educated, able to speak several languages, accomplished piano player, he moved from his native Georgia for his health. Diagnosed with tuberculosis at 22, he knew the nature of his death sentence having watched his mother die from the disease. When he arrives in Dodge City, Kansas in 1878 with his mistress Kate, a woman as accomplished and well educated as ‘Doc’ himself, he proceeds to set up business as a dentist, but more than supplements his income with gambling. His friendship with the Earp brothers helps bring vividly to life Dodge City in all its brawling complexity – saloons and whorehouses, political machinations, business deals, the struggle to bring law and order to a frontier town. Both humourous and poignant, this novel is an engrossing read.
The sequel, Epitaph, set three years later in Tombstone, Arizona, is already high on my To Be Read list.
Another review of Doc can be found here.